I won’t be the first or last person to say that sensitive, reactive skin is a pain to have. In the summer, you’re fighting off heat rash, sweat-induced breakouts, and sunburn. Then, in the winter, you’re faced with a constant battle against dehydration from blasting heaters and holiday treat-induced blemishes.
So, if you like central heating and you’re not into skipping the cookies and punch, then you need a skincare routine to do the heavy lifting to keep skin calm, hydrated, and happy.
I’ve personally (and finally) curated my perfect sensitive skin skincare routine and am happy to report, my fellow fussy-skinned comrades, there is hope for your complexion yet.
Step One: The Cleanser
The widely acknowledged first step of any skincare routine is cleansing. A single makeup removing oil or gel used twice in a row is a dependable option. It’s the lazy girl’s double cleanse, if you will: half the product typically included in a double cleanse with the same level of effectiveness.
La Roche-Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel is a fan favorite that has recently risen to popularity in the U.S., though it’s been a longstanding top seller in the U.K. It’s lightly fragranced, non-foaming, slightly moisturizing, and incredibly effective.
If you’re sensitive, start your cleanser search with a bland milk or light gel like this one. Skip treatment-focused cleansers that contain things like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. In a cleanser, these active ingredients do little more than dry out your skin since they don’t remain on your skin long enough to actually exfoliate or fight off acne.
Step Two: The Toner
Next, follow with a hydrating toner mist. This step is not for everyone, but if toning is your thing, stick with the spritz. By toning with a mist versus cotton pads, you reduce the amount of friction applied to your skin, another common cause of redness and irritation. Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray is a personal favorite, chockfull of glycerin and aloe for a kick of light hydration.
Step Three: A Treatment
After toning, pat on two to three drops of your favorite gentle treatment, depending on what your primary concerns are. I love Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil as my treatment step. This dry oil hydrates with black cumin and cucumber seed oils and gently exfoliates with salicylic acid. After only a couple of weeks, I’ve been surprised to find my chin blackheads (cute!) are dramatically reduced.
Skip alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic and lactic acid, when choosing your daytime treatment. These ingredients are amazing, but they also dramatically increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Further to this, if your skin is highly reactive or sensitive, save your treatment step for once or twice a week, in the evenings only. When my skin is feeling particularly sensitive, I will do little more than a few swipes of Stridex Daily Care Acne Pads with Salicylic Acid across my face on one night of the week.
Step Four: The Moisturizer + SPF
After treating your skin for whatever ails it, follow with a basic moisturizer. Two old favorites are the Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil and Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Face Creme. Fragrance is not inherently bad in skincare, but switching to moisturizers that are fragrance-free may make a positive difference for you.
Finally, as they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and any solid skincare routine is rounded out with a sunscreen. My hunt for a decent, non-drying and non-stinging sunscreen has been a long and treacherous one, but I finally found Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 and will never turn back.
If you find that your skin stings or itches after applying sunscreen, consider the filters you are using. Are they chemical, like oxybenzone and avobenzone? If this is the case, this could be why they sting. Switch to a physical blocker, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and see how you fare.
In conclusion, there is one thing that you can’t forget amidst your search for the perfect routine: skincare is individual. Products surrounded by hype aren’t necessarily the best. Take time to test out different products, apply them in different ways, and listen to your skin’s needs. It may take a while, but with some patience, you will figure out what works for your picky complexion.
What’s the one skincare product you can’t live without?
Images via Beth Cath